Cuellar will work closely with Rick Lemmo, the organization’s new Chairman of the Board of Directors, to continue to expand the non-profit’s reach across South Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Calif. (June 21, 2021) – Operation Progress, the first-of-its-kind Watts-based non-profit which pairs underserved youths with LAPD and civilian mentors, recently announced the appointment of Cristina Cuellar as Executive Director. Building on the organization’s over 8 years of operation, Cuellar will be responsible for continuing to advance and support scholars in the program, while working closely with the board to expand the network of schools within the Operation Progress ecosystem.

Cuellar joins Operations Progress from Verbum Dei High School where she most recently held the role of Vice President of Programming (Corporate Work Study), where she oversaw a program created to fund inner-city college education. With over 17 years of experience in an educational setting and deep familiarity with the local communities served by Operation Progress, Cuellar will play a critical role in helping to grow the reach of this life-changing program.

“I was introduced to Operation Progress at its inception when Verbum Dei High School became one of its partner schools,” said Cuellar. “Having been raised in Watts, I recognized firsthand the power and impact of the mission of Operation Progress – to empower youth. I could sense the love and commitment given to each scholar and look forward to continuing to carry out that mission. To our scholars: your education, your safety and your empowerment will always be our priority.”

Cuellar’s arrival coincides with the appointment of Rick Lemmo, Caruso’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, as Chair of the Operation Progress Board of Directors. Lemmo, who brings with him decades of experience having served on over 17 non-profit boards and commissions, will act in an advisory role, ensuring that Operation Progress will continue to expand its impact. Lemmo’s appointment is a natural fit, given Caruso’s long-standing relationship with the program. Caruso Founder and CEO Rick Caruso sat as a founding board member for Operation Progress, and has a long legacy of support and deeply-held personal philosophy of giving back to organizations that are transforming lives through education and faith-based programs for children living in poverty.

Since its inception, Operation Progress has guided hundreds of at-risk students in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles from elementary school through college. This unique collaboration between LAPD, educators and community leaders is already being viewed as a national model for both student achievement and improved police-community relations. In November 2020, Fort Worth Police Department launched the Operation Progress ecosystem in Fort Worth, marking the program’s first satellite location.